Makers of therapy bots say they can help manage the ‘tsunami’ of latent mental illness emerging with the stress of the pandemic and unemployment. But are they ready?

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Illustration: Ariel Davis

On a hot afternoon in June, I downloaded a free mental health app called Woebot. I was feeling somewhat worn out and anxious from too many hours reading news about the double pandemic of Covid-19 and systemic racism, and the hubris of too quickly reopening the country. Woebot claimed it could help.

“I’m an emotional assistant,” Woebot explained, after asking about my mood, which was sluggish and pessimistic. “I’m like a wise little person you can consult with during difficult times, and not so difficult times.”

“You’re a person?” I replied, selecting from a list of responses.

“I’m not a human,” said Woebot. “But in a way, I’m still a person.” …

I’m paying Project Wren $15.70 per month to offset my carbon footprint. Can it do more than absolve my guilt?

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Illustration: Mark Pernice

You’re probably guiltier than you think. That’s what I learned when I calculated my carbon footprint with Project Wren, a startup that sells carbon offsets to individuals. According to the program’s calculations, I’m responsible for 19.51 metric tons of carbon each year, a bit more than the average American and three times more than the global average. To rub it in further, the Project Wren website explained that my emissions are equivalent to those produced in manufacturing 10,817 burgers or taking 20 roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Paris. Yikes.

Then came the pitch: For $15.70 a month, Project Wren would pay one of the three carbon offset projects they support to sequester or reduce emissions equivalent to my supersize footprint, about 1.6 metric tons per month (Wren’s option to offset the emissions from my entire life cost $4,631.04). I could choose from a “community tree planting” project in East Africa, “clean cooking fuel for refugees” in Uganda, or “tech-enabled Amazon rainforest protection” in Peru. …

Approximately one in four people with diabetes are using less insulin than they need because of the cost

Participant holding a protest sign at a rally for affordable insulin for people with diabetes.
Participant holding a protest sign at a rally for affordable insulin for people with diabetes.
Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images

In the past 10 years, the price of insulin in the United States has tripled. For those people with diabetes who have to buy their insulin without insurance or with high-deductibles and coinsurance plans, the inflated price of this essential drug has forced impossible choices between buying insulin and paying for rent or buying food. (In some cases, biohackers with diabetes are even making their own insulin.)

In one 2019 study, one in four people with diabetes reported using less insulin than they needed because of the cost. This can impact blood sugar levels and lead to long-term consequences like blindness and amputations. …

About

James Dinneen

Writing on science/environment/misc. North East South West https://jamesdinneen.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @jamesNESW

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